Homily – 5th Sunday of Easter – A

Fr Lino Moreira OSB

We have heard in today’s gospel that God the Father acts and speaks through his only Son, Jesus Christ. Being one with his Father (cf. Jn 10:30), Jesus said to the twelve sitting at table with him on the eve of his Passion: “The words I say to you I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father who dwells in me does his works” (Jn

The disciples who heard this statement could not understand its full import at the time. But later, after they had received the Holy Spirit from the risen Lord (cf. Jn 20:20), they realised that Jesus was the divine Word through whom all things came into being (cf. Jn 1:2), and that by his Son’s incarnation, death on the Cross and resurrection, God the Father had redeemed the whole universe. It should be noted, however, that the work of creation through the agency of God’s eternal Word is still an ongoing event, and that the redemption of the world,
accomplished by Jesus when he laid down his life on the Cross, is to be made effective in the course of human history through the words and deeds of the Church. That is why Jesus said to his disciples: “Believe in God, believe also in me (Jn 14:1). Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and in fact will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father (Jn 14:12)”.
We can see the fulfilment of this prophecy, first of all, in the Acts of the Apostles. There we are told that the community of believers, under the leadership of the twelve, not only preached Jesus’ message and performed the same kind of miracles as he did, but made disciples of Jews and gentiles alike, baptising them with the Holy Spirit. That first generation of disciples, of which Paul was such a prominent figure, preached the Gospel of the kingdom far beyond the confines of Palestine, and wherever they went they celebrated the sacraments – especially the Eucharist, the living Memorial of Jesus’ Passover meal – and gave witness to Christ by their works of charity.

In fact the ministry of charity has always been an essential part of the Church’s mission. We heard in today’s first reading how a daily serving of food (cf. Acts 6:1) was a very well established practice in the early community of disciples at Jerusalem. And this service, this ‘diaconia’, was so important that seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom (cf. Acts 6:2), were chosen to minister at the tables (cf. Acts 6:2). As Pope Benedict says in his encyclical Deus caritas est (God is love): “With the formation of this group of seven, ‘diaconia’ – the ministry of charity exercised in a communitarian, orderly way – became part of the fundamental structure of the Church. As the years went by and the Church spread ever further, the exercise of charity became established as one of her essential activities, along with the administration of the sacraments and the proclamation of the word: love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to the Church as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel” (Deus Caritas est, 21-22).
So Jesus continues to speak and act in the world on behalf of God the Father by means of the threefold mission of the Church, namely: the proclamation of the word of God, the celebration of the sacraments and the ministry of charity, whereby the community of believers seeks to fulfil God’s commandment – love your neighbour as yourself (cf. Lv 19:18). These are the spiritual sacrifices spoken of in the First Letter of
Peter, where we read: you also, as living stones, let yourselves be built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 P 2:5).

Every day, then, we need to rediscover anew our own individual place within God’s house, of which the Lord Jesus is the cornerstone (cf. 1 P 2:5). But at the same time we should be keenly aware that, whatever our specific vocation may be, we are all meant to play an active role in attending to the spiritual and material needs of others. Jesus asks us all to follow the example of the Good Samaritan, and we know for sure that when he comes in his glory, he will welcome into his kingdom all those who were able to recognise him in the least of his brothers and sisters (cf. Mt 25:34. 40).

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